Monday, March 25, 2013
Herbs and Meat Pie!
Here in Northern California, where I live, winter seems to be over and spring is starting to arrive! Really? I think so! I say that because for the past 2-3 years, maybe longer, spring and summer kind of skipped us! It wasn't cold and it wasn't hot, but it wasn't "nice" either! It was weird and unpredictable. Summer, for sure, forgot us!
Last week I made a chicken pot pie, pastry and all. Typically a winter dish, in fact I'm not sure now what lead me to making it in the first place (?). Meat pies are basically, meat, veg, gravy, topped with pastry or mashed potatoes (Shepard's pie), or variation on. These days everybody seems to want to try and change traditional meals/dishes to fit more modern dietary beliefs (less carbs, less fats, no gluten), and I completely understand. I've screwed up my share of dishes trying to make them "healthier"! But I'm a huge fan of traditional recipes using good cooking techniques. Make minor adjustments successfully and then get all crazy with it!
This morning I made a second meat pie. Shopping for ingredients over the weekend I knew I wanted more herbs! But I also wanted to taste the last bits of winter. Mushrooms, onion, celery, and carrot are the staple veggies and this time around I added brussels and rutabaga...rutabaga, the forgotten, or never thought about, "secret" delicious root veggie! I could live on rutabaga, sweet potatoes and kabocha squash! In fact instead of a pastry crust you could make a mashed topping of any of three or a combination of (celery root and cauliflower would be great in a mashed veg topping too!). I had some leftover tarragon and I picked up some chives from the market.
Knowing how to cook with and prepare foods with fresh herbs is so....I don't know.....cool! I've decided that this is going to be the year of the herb! I started by ordering 2 cookbooks, "The Herbal Kitchen" and "The Herb Farm Cookbook", both by Jerry Traunfeld. I might even grow an herb garden! My BFF Fawn is the Queen of the Herbal Salad and I've got to talk her into sharing, posting, creating and teaching her method for putting salads together using fresh herbs! Lots of good herbal goodness to come! But before winter is gone, make a meat pie!
Harvest the meat from one cooked chicken in big chinks (homemade or store bought already roasted). Personally I love a "meat heavy" pie! But you could use as little as 2 large breasts or 1/2 chicken.
Olive oil (or chicken fat)
mushrooms (1/2 lb cut into quarters)
onion (1 med, large dice)
celery (2 stalks, large dice)
1 lg, or 2 sm carrots (peeled and cut into rounds)
1-1/2 c. frozen peas
2 tbl flour
1 - 2 c chicken stock
1 c. heavy cream (or half and half, or whole milk)
salt and pepper (do I still have to list salt and pepper?)
Pastry (aka pie crust)
If you don't want to make pie dough then I suggest "Pillsbury Already-Made Pie Crust"! It's super yummy and I promise no one will know the difference!
Mashed root vegetable topping, or combination of.
potato (russet, or any variety of sweet potato)
Simply heat up 1-2 t/l oil and saute mushrooms and onion for 4-5 min. Add celery and carrot (brussels cut into halves, potato or rutabaga in med dice) and saute for another 4-5 min. Sprinkle 2 tbl flour, coating veggies, and cook until "raw" flour smell is gone. Add chicken stock to deglaze the pan. Add cream/milk and fresh herbs. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for 10-15 minutes on med/low and the sauce (gravy) should thicken while you deal with the pastry!
If using you own pastry recipe, it should have been "resting" in the fridge for at least one hour, and now it's time to roll out! If using already made pie crust, simply open package! If using a mashed topping you should have been boiling water and cooking potato/root veg in salted water until soft enough to mash, and now's the time to finish that!
Once sauce is thick and vegetables are partially cooked through, turn off the heat and add cooked chicken and frozen peas (if using). Stir to combine and pour cooked veg and gravy into casserole, or pie dish. (oh, and please taste at this time to make sure you have seasoned it enough with salt and pepper). If using pastry, brush the parameter with an egg wash, that's the bottom sides that will "stick" to the casserole dish. After topping with pastry, brush the entire top with egg wash and slice a few steam vents, in a decorative manner of course (!) on the top. OR if using a mashed veg topping, simply spoon and spread on top. Place into a 375 degree oven starting at 35 minutes. When the crust is golden brown (it may take 45-50) and the bottom is bubbling the pie is done!
I figure I can roast a turkey this coming week and make a couple of turkey pies! Once spring hits full force I'll be adding in a ton of spring veg and herbs. And who know what else! Now that I'm getting comfortable with pastry again a pear galette? Or maybe I'll keep it savory. Or maybe follow the trend of sweet/savory and add in "herby"!